The Boeing aircraft manufacturing company (United States) withheld information about potential hazards associated with a new flight-control feature that could cause an airliner to abruptly nosedive and crash. The Interfax Ukraine news agency reported this, citing The Wall Street Journal, which cited flight safety experts involved in the investigation of the recent crash of a Lion Air airliner.
According to the report, the automated stall-prevention system on Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 models, which is intended to help cockpit crews avoid mistakenly raising a plane’s nose dangerously high, can push it down unexpectedly and so strongly under unusual conditions that flight crews cannot pull it back up.
According to the report, Boeing told airlines in a world-wide safety bulletin after the Lion Air airliner crash that such a scenario can result in a steep dive or crash even if pilots are manually flying the jetliner and do not expect flight-control computers to kick in. According to the report, this warning came as a surprise to many pilots who fly these aircraft models. Safety experts said that neither airline managers nor pilots had been told such a system had been added to the latest 737 variant and therefore aviators typically were not prepared to cope with the possible risks.
"It is pretty asinine for them to put a system on an airplane and not tell the pilots who are operating the airplane, especially when it deals with flight controls. Why weren’t they trained on it,” said Captain Mike Michaelis, chairman of the safety committee for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents about 15,000 American Airlines pilots.
According to an informed source at the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration, the new flight-control systems were not highlighted in any training materials or during lengthy discussions between carriers and regulators about phasing in the latest 737 derivatives.
The problem with the new system became known during the investigation of the crash of a Boeing-737 MAX 8 belonging to the Lion Air airline. Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed into the sea off the west coast of the island of Java (Indonesia) on October 29 with 189 people on board.
The first Boeing 737 MAX airliner is expected to be delivered to Ukraine in 2019. Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) plans to add the first of three aircraft of this model to its fleet in spring next year.